It was back in 2009 that Afripack took its first tentative steps outside South Africa, when Standard Labels in Mauritius was acquired along with Astrapak’s flexible packaging businesses. Standard Labels supplies top-quality plastic and paper labels (including wraparound labels, self-adhesive labels, shrink sleeves and tamper-evident sleeves), plus mono-layer and laminated packaging films to the region’s beverage, food, dairy, detergents, cosmetics and chemicals sector.
With a particular focus on beverage labelling, Standard Labels – headed by Hubert Hurel – is the dominant supplier to the Indian Ocean Islands and supplies certain products to the East African market. Strong diversification is taking place at Standard Labels and Afripack has invested R5-million in a quad-seal pouch-maker and SO bag line. In addition to his responsibilities at Standard Labels, Hubert also manages regional business development for other group products, such as those from Mondi Europe and Autopak Argentina.
Next move: Kenya
Building on the successful model of Standard Labels in Mauritius, Afripack’s next African asset was Dilpack in Nairobi, Kenya, in which Afripack took a 50% share in 2011.
This flexible packaging business is a dedicated supplier to the regional horticultural sector. While first-tier supply is to local flower farms, packaging ultimately ends up in European supermarkets such as Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury’s.
This move was facilitated through Afripack’s Dutch partner, Dillewijn, which oversees this operation and ensures market penetration in Europe and South Africa.
Apart from flower sleeves, this BRC-accredited plant also produces food packaging and boasts two six-colour gravure presses.
Also in Nairobi – in fact, located in the same complex – is Afriflex East Africa, producing labels for the region.
‘We had been exporting flexible packaging into Kenya for well over a decade,’ explains James Hynd, ‘but it became increasingly obvious that a local presence was essential to expand our business in the region.’
As a first step, Afripack established a warehouse and distribution facility in Nairobi, but that was later upgraded with investments in printing and converting equipment, including the redeployment of a nine-colour Aquaflex flexographic press from Afripack’s Pinetown plant to Nairobi.
More recently, the business developed further with the establishment of a JV with General Printers, East Africa’s largest flexible packaging converter, and Dillewijn, Afripack’s partner in Dillpack, resulting in a new business called MapFlex. As the name implies, this operation is focused on the supply of modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) for East Africa’s vegetable growers, supplying key European retailers.
And it’s here that Africa’s first PerfoTec line has been installed to service this market. The system creates minute breathing holes in film and bags used to package fresh produce, achieving superior in-transit and on-shelf quality for perishable foods.
According to James, this latest Kenyan investment has resulted in growing support from UK retailers, especially as M&S has accredited the PerfoTec system as its preferred MAP technology.
Initially, in a joint venture with Astrapak’s Knilam business, PerfoTec materials for the South African market have also been sourced from MapFlex in Kenya. However, investment in a local production line is imminent.
This arrangement between Afripack and Astrapak ensures an unmatched offering to the MAP market, ensuring quality packaging production and consumer peace of mind in markets across southern, central and east Africa.
And then into Zimbabwe
The next logical step was into Zimbabwe where a second Afriflex operation has been established in Bulawayo in partnership with Polyfoil Zimbabwe (previously owned by Nampak). Since then the Polyfoil site has undergone a significant revamp with the addition of an eight-colour Carint flexo press, a Nordmeccanica laminator and HCI slitter. ‘These assets have been installed to take advantage of consumer growth in the region,’ James notes.
As well as their manufacturing activities, these African operations represent Afripack, marketing products such as paper and woven PP sacks, labels and flexible packaging produced by the South African operations.
While these investments in Mauritius, Kenya and Zimbabwe reflect Afripack’s commitment to the African continent this is by no means the end of the story.
‘It’s obvious from our research and from our visits to various regions in Africa that great opportunities exist in the supply of flexible packaging throughout the continent. To give just one example, there’s enormous growth in wraparound labelling requirements as non-returnable PET bottles take over from returnable glass bottles in the CSD market,’ James explains.
In fact, he adds, there are untold opportunities for making further inroads into Africa. ‘For instance,’ he comments, ‘there are tremendous prospects in partnering our flexible packaging customers in the consumer goods sector as they progress into Africa. And for our sacks business, we can partner with cement producers such as PPC and Lafarge that have an increasing presence in Africa meeting the needs of strongly-growing demand for cement throughout the region.
‘Such developing partnerships will build on our African vision,’ James continues.
Although Afripack’s flexible packaging acquisitions in Kenya and Zimbabwe are gaining momentum, it’s not only East Africa that has sparked Afripack’s attention. James is also busy exploring opportunities in West Africa and other parts of Southern Africa.
African buyers target Africa’s Big Seven
Vibrant economies in Africa are spawning a rapidly expanding, ever younger middle class with more disposable income and a taste for new products. There’s growing demand for an ever-wider variety of foods and flavours, which overseas and local suppliers are eager to fulfil.
According to John Thomson, MD of EMS (Exhibition Management Services), organiser of the world-renowned AB7 (Africa’s Big Seven), it’s the largest food and beverage trade show on the African continent and provides the best networking platform and product showcase for producers, manufacturers and suppliers to penetrate lucrative African markets.
AB7 2014 takes place from June 22 to 24 at Gallagher Convention Centre, Johannesburg.
‘The past three years have seen a rapidly increasing number of exhibitors and visitors from African countries taking part in AB7,’ John reports. ‘Last year, we had over 16 000 visitors to AB7 and the co-located SAITEX, with 27 African countries represented.’
Apart from South Africa, African visitors came from Angola, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Libya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
High-quality visitors, satisfied exhibitors
‘Visitors are decision-makers. Last year’s show statistics indicate almost 60% were owners, managing directors or directors of companies with purchasing authority,’ adds John.
AB7 is the undisputable food and beverage business gateway into Africa.
Commenting on the 2013 show, Carlos Goncalves, business manager for Gallo Oils, says his stand generated more than ten leads per day. ‘AB7 is very positive for us; it’s a well-organised show with great quality visitors, and we established contacts with South African companies and others from Namibia and Botswana.’
Lawrence Contey of Ghanaian lime oil manufacturer Madisa thoroughly enjoyed his first time at AB7, gaining 15 solid business leads from companies in Botswana, China and South Africa, all eager to distribute his products. ‘The show was very encouraging and offered a fantastic chance to showcase our products,’ said Contey.
Nampak moves into Nigeria with cans and closures
As part of its strategy of expanding its African footprint, Nampak has acquired the Alucan beverage can plant in Agbara, Nigeria.
The plant has the capacity to manufacture one billion cans/annum and boasts the latest technology to supply Nigerian consumers with world-class beverage cans for beer and carbonated soft drinks.
Nampak is the sole owner of the recently-completed plant, which will initially operate under the name Alucan Packaging trading as Nampak Bevcan Nigeria.
Says André de Ruyter, incoming Nampak CEO: ‘We’re proud of this acquisition, which plays a pivotal part in our African growth strategy. Working with our multinational customers, we’re excited about participating in Nigeria’s high growth rates to satisfy increasing consumer demand for high-quality packaging products across the African continent.’
Nampak currently has operations in 12 African countries, outside South Africa, that generate an annual revenue of almost R3-billion.
Alucan operates an eight-colour, two-piece single aluminium beverage can-making line in Agbara that serves the carbonated soft drinks, malt and beer industries in Nigeria. Once demand has grown as expected, the plant can accommodate a second line, doubling capacity to two billion cans/annum.
And closures for Africa
Nampak has also commissioned a new plastics closures line in Lagos.
Nampak South Africa has a long-standing strategic partnership with Bericap, Germany, and this has now been extended to include Nampak Nigeria. initial products will be closures for still water, to be followed by carbonated soft drink closures.
This greenfield project includes the installation of two Netstal 48-cavity injection moulders with an initial capacity of 220 million closures/year. This will increase as further injection moulders and moulds are installed.
Nampak Nigeria Lagos has been supplying metal packaging since the early 1960s under the CarnaudMetalBox brand. Nampak acquired a majority stake in the company in 2002, and full ownership in 2011.
At this early stage the focus will be on the local Nigerian market, Coca Cola, Seven-Up, Nestlé and SABMiller. In the future exports to Ghana and other neighbouring countries will be considered.
Eyes on East Africa
As a brand, Propak has been around for more than two decades and has developed into the largest show of its type on the African continent. As the brand has developed, the concept has been cloned to deliver new shows across the sub-Saharan region.
Having launched the highly-acclaimed Propak West Africa in 2012, East Africa is the next frontier for the organisers.
Staged as a joint venture between Montgomery Exhibitions (London) and ECO (Kenya), Propak East Africa takes place from April 1 to 3 at the KICC in Nairobi, Kenya.
As a place to do business, Kenya and the wider East African region is highly attractive. Home to some 400-million people, the region’s growth is expected to be huge. In Kenya alone, the population has doubled in the last 25 years and the dependency ratio (children and elderly supported by the working population) is set to become one of the lowest in the world.
Within the manufacturing industry, the packaging sector is becoming one of Kenya’s main pillars with consistent growth – currently accounting for 14% of the country’s GDP.
An event such as Propak is of vital importance for Kenya. Visitors will be looking for products and systems that allow their companies to become more efficient and more profitable, enabling them to increase trade, employ more people and grow alongside the Kenyan economy.
This inaugural show is off to a good start. It has, says the organiser, attracted more international exhibitors than any other event in the region.
The profile of exhibitors at Propak East Africa is broad, giving visitors a chance to see many different products and to be updated on cutting-edge technology.
The Propak East Africa Conference, running alongside the exhibition, will add another dimension. Delegates will be able to learn from local and international speakers.
South Africa on show
So what’s in it for South African exhibitors?
One answer comes from Keith Dilkes, Polyoak Packaging’s export sales manager:
‘Kenya and East Africa are important markets for us as this is the hub of Africa’s “dairy country”, and we pride ourselves on being experts in all forms of dairy packaging. We offer world-class IML (in-mould labelling) and offset printing for ice-cream, yoghurt and feta cheese packaging.
‘We’re continuously on the lookout for ways to improve our service and products, by better understanding local markets and challenges, and investing in the latest technology such as our new closure printer that can print three colours on the outside of a closure and a laser printer for promotional messages on the inside,’ Keith adds.
He also plans to promote the company’s 38mm child-resistant closure that took Gold at the 2013 Gold Pack Awards.
‘Propak East Africa provides an ideal opportunity to meet new customers and to help grow their businesses through innovative and eye-catching packaging solutions. For us it is about developing long term business partners.’
Questioned about current business in Africa, he replies: ‘Africa is an important market with some great brands and packaging opportunities. Customers in Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi, Mauritius, Seychelles and Zambia have already use our packaging to add value to their product offerings.’
According to Keith, there are many pockets of excellence, such as the 100g yoghurt multipack tub for Zimbabwe’s Dendairy. With its smart shoulder design to strengthen the pack and excellent print quality, it recently won a gold medal in the FTASA Print Excellence Awards.
‘Polyoak’s great strength is being able to offer a “one stop shop” for our customers’ packaging needs,’ Keith continues. ‘If customers need help with design then our specialist design team can assist. If they need advice on machine installations for new factories, we can help. This is a major benefit for customers in countries where it’s difficult to get this type of expert technical assistance.’
Another South African exhibitor is Hi-Tech Inks.
Since its inception in 1989, Hi-Tech Inks (HTI) has been committed to providing a superior service with added value, maintaining long-term partnerships with customers and suppliers alike. As a result, it now enjoys a leadership position in the supply of flexographic and gravure inks to Africa’s packaging and printing industry.
Says Hayley Palmer, marketing director, ‘Our success and growth has been a direct result of our unmatched applications of innovation and quality standards combined with a creative flair.’
According to Hayley, the group has now extended its product offering to include a cost-effective system designed to transform the face of printing. More about this new system will be unveiled at Propak East Africa, where the dynamic HTI team is looking forward to welcoming visitors to its stand (Stand E9).